NHS Digital’s vision is to improve health and care through information and technology. Many organisations contribute to the processes that generate value using national health data. The data is collected by providers and assembled by NHS Digital, and while we analyse and interpret it, the data is also shared and assessed by other organisations. This means that the data has more impact.
We produce almost 300 open data statistical publications per year, which are downloaded over 350,000 times. Sometimes patient-level data is required, and access to this is dependent on an application through the Data Access Request Service (DARS). Ultimately, the value of data is realised outside of NHS Digital, by researchers, policy makers, commissioners, local authorities, providers, clinicians and individual patients. NHS Digital enables a learning health system in which patient data is used to deliver continuous improvements to health and care.
This report focuses on the effects or outcomes of data released through DARS, known from here on as Impacts. The Impacts were identified in DARS application statements (known as yielded benefits statements) submitted by those who have received the data. A thematic analysis was based on a sample of 82 application statements. We believe the resulting set of Impacts, organised into five categories, represent most Impacts currently realised from NHS Digital patient-level data. The main report contains definitions of each impact and real examples taken from the Data Release Registry.
The types of Impact have also been analysed by type of applicant organisation, as shown in Figure 1. This shows that different types of applicants currently use the data to realise different types of impacts. This may highlight opportunities to increase impact with particular groups.
How organisations used the data
Figure 1 - Distribution of Impacts by (%) type of applicant in 2018. Data taken from a sample of applications received during 2018.
The range of Impacts identified and the associated case studies illustrate how NHS Digital supports change throughout the health and social care system. We enable the system to learn from every patient who is treated. The frequency of Impacts realised by each type of applicant points the way to new developments, and to services that we could offer to increase Impacts in particular areas.
Despite its limitations, this report provides an almost complete set of Impacts across health and social care. From the research that underpins practice, to the policy making processes that define how the system is organised, and work to achieve efficiencies and ultimately to improve health and care for patients and citizens.